Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Now what? School's Out + Early Mid-Season Racing News

Five years, soup to nuts, may not be all that long to sink into a master's degree, but it's a relatively long time, nonetheless, to be up to the same thing. Now I'm done...

Before I set off on my journey of temp work and earning my share of the hundreds of dollars that are out there to be made as a community college adjunct writing instructor, I have a little time on my hands in the coming weeks.I plan to spend most of it on my bike.

The funny thing is, though, that I need more of a balance than that to keep me focused. When I'm overwhelmed with school, riding seems like the best thing ever, and now with no school, I miss it and I find myself picking up books that were on my exam list that I never got through. That must mean I am studying the right stuff, headed in the right direction. And it gives me stuff to ponder, to have a little field-of-flowers time with myself when I'm out training later. It's always a struggle to find a balance, and as I said to some musician friends this past weekend who were horrified that I haven't been playing lately, sometimes you juggle 5 balls, and sometimes you juggle 3 but you throw them a bit higher. (Jokes, please) Still, I've been spending a lot of time kitted up and wandering around the apartment lately. Gotta get on a schedule.

Recent Races:

Quabbin Reservoir Road Race - Meh. The team did ok with two in the break (would have been 3 but I popped like a balloon after about 20 miles when Aspholm and Matt White accelerated up the longish climb and sulked my way back to the field) but then the race turned into a bit of a fiasco with the field being led off course, slaloming through downtown Ware (where?), MA with no traffic control. It was the first hot race of the year and the body wasn't quite ready, plus given my new high-volume-low-intensity pre-season approach, I have found my overall fitness to be higher, but my muscle endurance (i.e. ability to tolerate surges and pace changes) to be a little slow to come around. Spinelli 5th, Al Donahue 7th, Tremble near the front of the field sprint in 11th. Me? Pack fill.

Jiminy Peak Road Race - This was the first race of the year where I felt like I was racing with legs that would do what I wanted them to do, and it was an early indication (I suppose Battenkill was the first) that the extra hours this winter are paying off, in that 150k really didn't feel all that long and I felt better the longer the race went on. Muscular endurance better, hard intervals during the week = good. Again Spinelli made the break, I nearly did with a bridge attempt, but I may have screwed myself out of it. I was marking bridge moves by Justin Lindine and Matt White from Bikereg and a couple of riders from Empire and I wasn't pulling through. See, those guys are strong, Spinelli was already up ahead in a group of 9 including rockstar Jamie Driscoll, who eventually won. So bringing more strong guys up to the move, even with me along, didn't seem to be in our favor. There was a brief moment when we got within 10 or 15 seconds of the break when I considered trying to jump the gap myself in one hard sprint, but I chickened out. It was windy and the effort would have been big, and we were about 1.5k out from the climb at that point and I thought, "hmm, go anaerobic now, and try to recover while climbing in the breakaway while the gap is still being established and the pace is still high? Nyet." Judging by how I felt later in the race, I probably had the matches to burn and should have gone. Every year I have one early season race where I remind myself not to race like a conservative punk, and this was that race. In the immortal words of my good friend and mentor Andy Ruiz, "pain is your friend, don't be a p*$$y."

The finish, for me, was good from a developmental perspective, and bad in terms of the actual result. I had great legs and swam up the climb, wondering when it was going to be hard...then I got to the front and saw that the group of 10 or so who were actually racing (oops, missed that memo) had already gapped the rest of the field. I jumped at about 300 meters out and got most of the way across the gap, passing a few stragglers from the front group and finishing just behind Jeremy Powers. The frustrating thing is that if I hadn't been riding like a wimp coming into the climb, and if I had positioned myself top 10-15 coming through the corner, I definitely had the legs to score and at least place in the money. Instead I made a "heroic" effort to finish 19th....but there's no such thing. Heroic efforts win races, or get caught at 1k to go after being off the front all day, like Jens yesterday in the Giro. Impressive efforts that yield no result aren't heroic, they're just ill-timed.

Bear Mountain Spring Classic - This one went a'iight. For a full race report, look here.
While my result (17th, break of 9 up the road, so 8th in the field sprint) was just ok, I felt like this race was something of a high-water mark for me in terms of long, hilly road races. My track record here is lousy, having broken my chain on the second lap last year, and gotten lost on the way to the race the year before, resulting in my number being given away to someone on the wait list, and me then becoming very sick with allergy-induced bronchitis. This year was make or break: I was either going to finish the race well, or have another mishap and join the legions of disaffected Northeast bike racers who swear the race is cursed and refuse to ever go back. It was even money which way it was going to go. I can now safely say, however, that I am drinking the Kool-Aid: after one good race there I am convinced that people are right, Bear Mountain is one of the best courses around. It pains me to agree with the NYC racing community, but on this I have to.

So the day was good, I raced my bike for 1oo miles, felt strong on the climbs mostly, hung in when I felt less strong, and even attacked hard over the dam at the top of Tiorati one lap. Who, me? Aren't I usually hanging on for dear life near the back at that point on climbs? Not anymore, apparently. No the climbs aren't steep, but I have always struggled in hilly races over 100k or so, mainly because I have never put in the time to have the endurance that one needs to be competitive in Pro 1/2 races. This year I have done a lot of work on my climbing going all the way back to January, and the payoff feels pretty damned good. I got boxed in in the sprint, had some bad luck, dropped riders coming backwards through the field jammed me up a bit...yeah, that's life. And maybe I could have been more aggressive, given someone a push, really gone for it, and racing for the win I would have. But racing for 10th place, it just didn't seem worth going down at speed, so I was a little cautious. The good part was that I was up there winding out my 53 x 11 at 100 miles which is new for me, for sure. It gave me a warm fuzzy that good things are to come. Plus I love my team.

This coming weekend is a bit more laid back with the Lake Sunapee race up in New Hampshire. Serious New England bragging rights and double digit prize money on the line. Woot. Should be a blast, though. I love little races, it's the best part of being an amateur--showing up to have fun and not stress every weekend like it's Nationals or Fitchburg or something. And after that it will be a fine-tuning week before Memorial day weekend in New Jersey. Somerset Hills on Saturday, Bound Brook on Sunday, Somerville Monday, and then most likely back down for the Ricola Twilight Crit on that Wednesday. All of which should stack up to bring me into June with some serious form, all other things being equal, which they rarely are. I'm looking forward to it all the same.

Then I'm going to have to get a job.



  1. Dope internships are currently available in a spare Northampton bedroom booking hotel rooms, haggling with climbing companies, and sorting Tshirts. Apply Now!

  2. Can I get health insurance with that?

  3. Congrats on finishing your degree! Can you make an appearance at the Racing City Grand Prix?

  4. Thanks, Andrew. I will definitely be there, wouldn't miss it!

  5. Congratulations, as a former and sometimes still student with multiple responsibilities, I stand in awe of your accomplishment. Hopefully you've got a little extra time now to ride your bike and spend time with your daughter. Oh and maybe play a little music too.